National Geographic : 1916 Oct
358 THE NATIONAL GEO would not look so queer if they both leaned at the same angle; but Torre Asi nelli, 320 feet high, leans four feet out of plumb, while its unfinished companion, only half so high, swings out 8. At one time there were more than 200 towers of this freakish, fortified-home class in Bologna (see page 347). In contrast with these highly imagina tive products, the tall, graceful, ex quisitely proportioned campanile of San Francesco, one of the finest and most beautiful in Italy, covered with a delicate network of decoration in terra-cotta, seems all the more lovely. FERRARA'S PALACES Peaceful Ferrara may justly claim to be the first modern city in Europe. It was the court and home of the great Este family during the Renaissance, and Her cules I, with a foresight and spirit re markable in even that period of awaken ing and enlightenment, transformed his cramped and crowded capital by plowing it through with broad, straight streets that let the air and sunshine in, and gave the people-they probably grumbled bit terly at the change-room and health. The most striking feature of the city architecturally is the great, square, moat ed, heavily battlemented brick castle of the Este, defended by a massive tower at each corner, on top of which some genius in 1554 clapped absurd little square, two storied cupolas like bird-cages. Not far away is the hospital where the poet Tasso was confined seven years while out of his mind-and also out of favor. Another famous character in Ferrara's story is Savonarola, born here in 1452. THE RIVER PO Three miles north of Ferrara the coun try is ridged with the levees or embank ments that control the Po, which here marks the boundary between 1Emilia and Venetia. The river is 417 miles long, navigable for 337 miles for light-draft vessels, and practically all of northern Italy is included in its tremendous basin. The great dikes hem it in on both sides from Cremona to the delta, more than 300 miles. A Paleolithic race who dwelt in the swampy lowlands beside the stream, GRAPHIC MAGAZINE in houses reared on stilts, were the first dike-builders. This construction contin ued, until at the present time in several places along its lower reaches the river bed, through silting up, is actually above the level of the surrounding country. The Po is also the main artery of an interesting and complicated system of canals which connect it with some of its own tributaries, which are connected in turn with one another by other canals, all of which carry off water for irrigation purposes. THE BEGINNINGS OF VENICE We have already seen something of the splendor of Pisa as mistress of the seas, but her power could not last forever. Genoa, growing fast, sprang at her throat in the battle of Meloria in 1284, and the Pisan rule was over, so far as the seas were concerned. La Superba, Genoa called herself. Her flag swept its way into port after port, until the whole Levant knew its ominous beacon. Genoa's progress, however, was far from smooth sailing. Across the Italian peninsula an active and increasingly powerful rival was scouring the Adriatic; and if Genoa could call herself The Superb, Venice was growing into a city-kingdom which merited the title, of The Magnificent. Within a century after the maritime su premacy had been wrested from Pisa by Genoa it was unwillingly passed on to Venice. From her very beginnings Venice pros pered beyond all proportion to her size; and before the end of the fifteenth cen tury was more than shadowed she owned city after city to the west, vast colonial empire by sea, held undisputed control of the waters, and was the focus of the whole world's trade, with a population of nearly a quarter million.* EUGENIC SILKWORMS Not another province of Italy can show so many and such diversified and profit able features as Lombardy. It is at once an agricultural and a manufacturing re gion, the' focal point of the peninsular railway system into other countries, the *See "Venice," by Karl Stieler, with 45 illus trations, in the June, 1915, NATIONAI, GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE.